Access to Information Programme
Results from 2012 AIP audit on institutional web sites. First Active Transparency Rating

The Access to Information Programme team performed an audit on the institutional web sites within 23.01 – 16.03, 2012. The purpose was to evaluate the legal obligations under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA) and other laws for online publication of information. Audit results were presented at a press conference on April 4, 2012 at the Bulgarian News Agency and were widely covered by the media.
 
The results from the audit and the analysis of access to information practices in the institutions raise the main problem and recommendation:    
  • To authorize a specific public body to supervise and coordinate the APIA implementation activities.

Other key AIP recommendations this year are mainly connected with the internal rules for APIA implementation:
The assigning of internal unit to be in charge of and to coordinate the process of active disclosure of public information:
  • The precision of the categories of information subject to active disclosure;
  • The precision of the procedure for active publication of information online ensuring its timeliness;
  • The unification of the content of Access to Information subsections;
  • The unification of the internal procedures for dealing with the e-requests;

Within the 2012 audit, AIP reviewed and evaluated 474 web sites of 487 executive bodies at a central, regional, and local level. The level of transparency was assessed on the base of 39 or 40 (for the municipalities) indicators, which encompass the standards for active disclosure of information under the APIA and other regulations: 
  • Institutional information - legal basis of the institution, functions, services provided, data bases and information resources;
  • Organizational structure and contact information;
  • Operational information – acts, strategies, plans, activities;
  • Financial and other transparency – budgets and financial reports, contracts, conflict of interests declarations;
  • Existence and content of the Access to Information sections. 

As part of the audit, 485 access to information requests were filed about the public registers maintained by the respective public body. The results were incorporated in the Public Registers Portal: http://www.publicregisters.info/, which contains information and links to 631 public registers maintained by government bodies.

2012 audit results show that the great variety in institutional web sites structure and content observed last year still persists. Public procurement and concession contracts are still not disclosed on institutional web sites. Practices in registering and responding to electronic access to information requests also vary and even contradict the law.
 
A considerable progress, however, is observed with regard to the active disclosure online of the public bodies’ administrative acts. There is an improvement with regard to the disclosure of the budgets, the online availability of registers, and the services provided by the public bodies. The number of institutions which have created the mandatory Access to Information section have also increased. The process of adoption and online publication of Internal ATI Rules has been continuing.
 
Based on the audit results and the public bodies’ capacity to respond to electronic access to information requests, AIP launched the first Active Transparency Rating in Bulgaria.  AIP has been auditing the web sites of public bodies in Bulgaria since 2006, but rates the institutional level of transparency for the first time. The maximum score is 60.5. The Active Transparency Rating was launched to serve as a stimulus and model for public bodies to develop their web sites in line with active transparency standards and legal requirements for online publication of information.

The audit results are available (in Bulgarian) by institution and by indicators, and include the responses of the institutions on the access to information requests.
 
Author of the analysis of the audit results is Gergana Jouleva, AIP Executive Director. The analysis and the Comparative data for 2010 - 2012 are part of AIP annual report Access to Information in Bulgaria 2011.
 
 
The audit was made within the implementation of the project Civil Audit of Active Transparency of Government, supported by a grant from the Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe.